I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome an author who wears many hats to the blog today to help celebrate the release of their first adult book.
Check it out...
photo credit: Lou Abercrombie Photography
I started out as a picture book editor at Macmillan Children’s Books and went on to be an editor at HarperCollins. I have freelanced over the years for several publishers including Bloomsbury, Puffin, Chicken House and Hachette. I proofread the last Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows! The most glamorous proofread ever…
My memoir A Place for Everything is my first book for the adult market, published July 2020 by HarperCollins.
My writing career began twenty years ago with a picture book, published for very young children. Since then I have published over 50 books for children and young teens including picture books, short stories, poems, fiction series and non-fiction titles. My books have been chosen for World Book Day, the Richard and Judy Book Club and been shortlisted for the Hull Libraries Award, the Lancashire Book of the Year Award and most recently the ALCS Educational Writers’ Award.
I was a tutor and Associate Lecturer at Bath Spa University for seven years. I also have extensive experience in running writing workshops in schools. I am a tutor for the Arvon Foundation and for London Lit Lab and The Writers’ Block which is part of a Cornish initiative run by Kernow Education Arts Partnership.
“A Place for Everything – my mother, autism and me” is a memoir about my mother’s late diagnosis of autism at the age of 72. In writing it, I found myself unpacking my childhood and young adult years, re-examining them in the knowledge that Mum had autism and that she could therefore not help the way she behaved. It is a story of a life lived with undiagnosed autism, about the person behind the disorder, those big unspoken family truths, and what it means to care for our parents in their final years.
I grew up in a house that was loving and secure – my parents’ marriage was solid and reassuring and I got on well with my sister. However, Mum’s behaviour was at best a little eccentric, at worse out of control and scary. My sister and I knew that if we kept things clean and tidy, stayed quiet and were ‘good girls’ for the most part everything would be all right. On the days when things started to get ‘a bit much for Mum’ we would go to Grandma’s and she would smooth over the ruffled edges and make things better again. So we coped, and mostly we were happy.
When Mum reached her 70s, and I and my sister were living far from her with families of our own, the cracks really started to appear. Mum became more manic. More irrational. More detached from the world. And when my father, the man who had calmed and cajoled Mum through her entire life became unwell, the whole world turned upside down.
The book has been described as:
‘Painful, raw and with an honesty that rings clear as a bell’ Catherine Simpson, author of When I Had a Little Sister
‘Wilson’s first adult title is a vividly told and profoundly affecting memoir’ – The Bookseller
‘A superb, lyrical and raw account of love and loss - will be especially helpful for anyone with a late-diagnosed family member on the autism spectrum’ – James Cook, author of In Her Room
Who are you and what do you write?
My name is Anna Wilson. I write for children and adults and have been a published author for twenty years. I write mostly humorous picture books, poetry, short stories, chapter books, early readers, middle-grade fiction, young teen fiction, young non-fiction. My main themes are family, animals and friendships. I am now writing for adults too – both non-fiction and fiction. My main focus for this market is family. Families hold an endless fascination for me. As Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” – this provides the basis for everything that I enjoy investigating and writing about.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
I started writing when I was four years old and was given my first diary. I wrote little poems and cartoon-strip stories heavily influenced by the Beano and Peanuts! I have kept a diary ever since and have used material from my diaries in quite a few of my books. My first published books were for children and were written when my own kids were born. I had my first book – a picture book – published when my daughter was one. My writing has always been hugely influenced by my son and daughter and by my wider family too. Perhaps because of this I have had books published for every age from 0-100!
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
It has been a steady journey – I have been lucky in that regard. I have had two to three books published every year for 20 years. That said, I was doing really well with middle-grade fiction about ten years ago, and since then sales have been hit by a number of factors. I have had to supplement my income by teaching and editing, whereas at one point I was making most of my money by writing. The publishing industry has undergone huge changes since I started work. Books have to sell really well in the first few weeks of publication and if they don’t, authors may find it hard to sell another book to their publisher. This happened to me – I was one of the most popular authors for Macmillan Children’s Books ten years ago, then a couple of books suddenly didn’t sell so well and so they dropped me from their list. I was heartbroken but had to pick myself up and find other publishers. Sadly this coincided with my parents both falling ill, so it was a tough time. But out of that has come my memoir, A Place for Everything, so in the end something good has come from that difficult time. I very much hope, with this new venture into the world of adult publishing, that I might make new contacts, connect with new readers, and have the chance to publish more for an adult readership. You have to keep optimistic in this business!
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
The hardest part of my publishing experience was being dropped by Macmillan. I had poured my heart and soul into a book for young teens called Summer’s Shadow which is set in Cornwall in a place that is very dear to me. Everyone who read the book loved it (I still get lovely comments from readers about it) but by then I was out of favour as an author, I didn’t get any publicity or marketing support and so the book bombed. I lost confidence in myself as a writer and felt I had wasted two years of my life writing a book that no one seemed to care about. Since then I have realised that the people who managed to get a copy really did care about it, so I know now that it was nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with not having the support I needed to get the book out there. I have learned since then that authors must work hard to do a lot of their own publicity and that we can’t all rely on the publisher. Their resources only go so far and they have a lot of other authors to support.
Would you go back and change anything?
I would have taken Summer’s Shadow to a new publisher and not given it to Macmillan! I had misgivings at the time, but I loved my editor there and wanted to give her first dibs. I should have gone with my gut as it was a book that was very different from anything I’d written before and it could have been sold to a new publisher as a “debut” which would have given me more prominence and better marketing and publicity. You live and learn!
Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
In 5 years I would like to be here, in Cornwall, writing more books for both children and adults. I would very much like to publish a novel for adults, as that is what I am currently working on. I would also like to have a few more picture books for children out there. In ten years I would love to be well-known, able to make all my money from writing – and of course I would like to win prizes… (Told you you have to be optimistic!)
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Don’t give up. Write a little every day, even if it is just a few lines in your diary. Set yourself small deadlines and challenges, such as, “Today I will write for 20 minutes without taking my pencil off the page/my fingers off the keyboard.” And read. Reading feeds writing. You can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader first. (OK, that’s two pieces of advice…!)
And most importantly...
Ketchup or Mayo? - BOTH!
Night or Day? - DAY
Inside or Outside? - OUTSIDE
Dogs or Cats? - BOTH!
Twitter or Facebook? - TWITTER
e-book or Paperback? - PAPERBACK
Sun or Rain? - SUN SUN SUN!
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - BOTH! But pencil and notebook always begin every book and keyboard finishes it
Comedy or Drama? - BOTH! Depends on my mood…
Chips or Chocolate? - CHOCOLATE! But if there’s no chocolate, then chips…
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!